Lanarkist

Lanark County duo leads Team Canada in international cornhole championship

Connor Weiss, left, and Paul VandenDam, right, wear their Team Canada jerseys.- Submitted photo

Connor Weiss’ enthusiasm for cornhole is contagious.

The bean bag toss game, popular in the United States, is growing in popularity in Canada with Weiss leading the way. He discovered the game at age 12 during a camping trip with family friend Paul VandenDam, and he’s been hooked ever since. Weiss and VandenDam, both Lanark County natives, are now set to don Team Canada jerseys as they represent the nation at the ACL Europe Open in Trier, Germany, this September.

Although Weiss played cornhole casually for years, it wasn’t until just before the COVID-19 pandemic that he really began to take the sport seriously.

“Playing in a tournament in Peterborough got me hooked,” Weiss told Lanarkist. “All of the top players were there, I’d seen them all play before, and I ended up taking them down,” he continued with a laugh.

This pivotal moment gave Weiss the opportunity to travel and compete against professional players. Later that year, he became the first Canadian to reach the professional level. He is currently a world champion and plays for a professional team in the American Cornhole League.

Despite his success, this is the first year Weiss has qualified for Team Canada. He showed up determined to play smart and make it happen.

“It was super exciting. The best part [about qualifying] was my whole family was there. It was awesome to be able to share it with them,” Weiss said.

VandenDam, on the other hand, saw himself as a “dark horse,” unsure if he would qualify for the team. He competed in a big tournament in Niagara Falls earlier this year, finishing seventh in the senior division but second among Canadian players. Spurred on by this result, VandenDam decided to attend the Team Canada qualifying tournament in Newfoundland earlier this month.

Over 60 competitors attended the tournament, each participating in six games. VandenDam managed a close victory, 21-17, to qualify for the national team. Weiss and his family, along with VandenDam’s wife, Lesley, anxiously watched and cheered him on as he clinched the spot around 1 a.m.

“I admit, I was a bit teary-eyed,” VandenDam said. “I still can’t believe it. Now I have to keep training to prove I belong on the team when we play in Germany.”

Weiss echoes VandenDam’s sentiments, adding, “There are a lot of emotions. Paul and I have gotten better by playing against each other, and the only other person from my team ended up qualifying as well. It’s special.”

All of the top talent in the world in the sport of cornhole will be at the tournament in Germany. Weiss’ goal is for Canada to finish in the top three.

Both Weiss and VandenDam are regulars in the local cornhole circuit and emphasize the fun and social aspect of the game.

“The game is so fun,” VandenDam says. “Even when you aren’t too good, the laughter makes it addicting.”

Weiss adds that the community is what draws him in. “Everyone is just there to have fun and throw some bean bags.”

Before the pandemic, as Weiss looked into options to play, he found a league in Perth, which he eventually took over running. The league grew very steadily and expanded throughout Lanark County, eventually being renamed to Capital City Cornhole due to its expansive reach and popularity. Weiss’ league currently plays at the Beckwith Sports Complex on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. with a cost of $15 per drop in. The league includes an advanced and social division, so it’s open to players of all skill levels.

“Everyone is welcome, the main goal is just for everyone to enjoy and socialize!” says Weiss.

Connect with Capital City Cornhole on Facebook for more details and to follow along as Weiss and VandenDam head to Germany.


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